Shaping Creativity:

The Evolution of Design Firms in the Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley’s design studios trace their origin back to the HP and Intel Era. As visionary designers carved their path into the tech landscape, they left an indelible mark on both form and function, giving a rise to an era of innovation that continues to shape design today. Follow their journey from the 1950s at NCR Data Pathing and AMPEX to the late 1990s.

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Timeline Written Out

(1954 - 2000)

  • 1954

    AMPEX AMPEX was founded in the 40s as the first venture capital funded design firm in the bay, but It wasn't until the the 50s that Dale Gruye and Nolan Volt arrived and began to work there as designers.

  • 1960s

    Center for Design Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts as a prototype for multi-disciplinary, Peter Lowe worked as the director for the Center for Design in San Francisco in the 1960s.

  • 1968

    NCR While NCR was founded in the 1800s, it wasn't until the late 1960s where Frank Guyre and David Kelly joined.

  • 1966

    GVO In 1966, Dale Gruye, Nolan Vogt, and George Opperman founded GVO. Many notable designers worked there who later found their own consultancies such as: Phil Bourgeois, Jeff Smith, Peter Lowe, Gerard Furbershaw, Robert Brunner, Young Kim, and Frank Guyre.

  • 1969

    Esslinger Design In 1969, Hartmut Esslinger founded Esslinger Design in Matlangen, Germany, and in subsequent years, Peter Muller assumed the role of VP.

  • 1978

    David Kelly Design After leaving NCR and earning his masters degree in Product Design at Stanford, David M. Kelly along with Dean Hovey founded Hovey-Kelly Design in 1978 which later turned into David Kelly Design.

  • 1980

    Smart Design In 1980, Smart Design was founded by Davin Stowell, Tom Dair, Tucker Viemeister, and Tamara Thomsen in New York City. They later on opened an office in San Francisco.

  • 1982

    Interform In 1982, designers Peter Lowe, Peter Muller, Gerard Furbershaw, Jeff Smith and Robert Brunner left GVO and Frog Design to form Interform.

  • 1983

    Frog Design Hartmut Esslinger moved to Palo Alto, CA in 1983 to form Frog Design and landed large clients such as Apple. Many notable designers work there who later found their own companies such as: Dan Harden, Yves Behar, and Gadi Amit.

  • 1983

    Studio Red In 1983, Phil Bourgeois left GVO and started his own design consultancy, StudioRed, in Redwood City. Later on, Ken Wood and Frank Guyre join.

  • 1984

    Lunar In 1984, Gerard Furbershaw, Jeff Smith, and Robert Brunner founded the design consultancy, Lunar Design. Ken Wood and Brett Lovelady later on joined the team.

  • 1986

    Inno Design In 1986, Young Kim, left GVO and founded design consultancy, INNODESIGN in Palo Alto.

  • 1991

    IDEO In 1991, IDEO was formed by a merger of 3 different companies: David Kelly Design, ID Two, and Matrix Product Design.

  • 1994

    Astro Studios Brett Lovelady and Jordan Reiss founded design consultancy Astro Studios in 1994.

  • 1995

    Bould Design In 1995, Fred Bould started design consultancy, Bould Design, in San Mateo.

  • 1995

    Shook Design Jim Shook founded design consultancy Shook Design in 1998 in Palo Alto.

  • 1996

    Speck Design In 1996, David Law, Tony Lillios, Craig Janik founded design consultancy, Speck Design.

  • 1999

    Surface Inc Founded by Eric Bauswell, Surface Ink began in 1999 as an engineering partner to Apple Computer.

  • 1999

    Whipsaw In 1999, Dan Harden founded design consultancy, Whipsaw in San Jose.

  • 1999

    Fuseproject Yves Behar founded design consultancy FuseProject in San Francisco.

  • 2000

    Newdeal Design Gadi Amit founded NewDealDesign in San Francisco along with Chris Lenart.

Our mission about us

Thank you for visiting CA Product Design! We’re a team of designers at StudioRed. We realized Phil Bourgeois, our founder, has a wealth of knowledge that we and many of our colleagues didn’t know, that predated our time in the industry. Our mission is to archive the history of product design in the Bay Area and share valuable information with the next generation of designers, as well as to build a community of designers who can help each other continue to innovate and make the world a better and prettier place. Your contributions and insights will play a crucial role in shaping a comprehensive map of Silicon Valley Design History.

Make us better

We’ve tried to document our knowledge of the history, but rely on the community to continually build on it. If you have any comments, suggestions, or additions, we invite you to connect with us.